I thought I might go ahead an place a simplified “Small Press” guide to publishing a book using my experience as an example for people to see.
1: Write a book. (Also known as the easy part.)
2: Get your book proof read by someone with a functional knowledge of spelling, grammar, and common sense. (An eagle eye for nitpicking helps.)
3: Edit your work. (Taking the knife to it to trim the fat.)
4: Polish your work. (Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’re good and fed up with it, then repeat three more times.)
5: Become a company. I recommend starting with your state’s chamber of commerce if you live in the USA. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce site can get you started on where to go for resources. The site is http://www.uschamber.com/ . Register your business with your state of residence. I chose a Sole Proprietor style business, but it may make sense to become a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for some people.
6: Go to the Bowker www.myIdentifiers.com web site to obtain an International Seller Book Number (ISBN) which is required by any retail outfit to sell your book. Remember that each different edition you make available for sale (Paperback, Hardback, Trade Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, and electronic version) requires its own ISBN number. These numbers cost $125 apiece at the time of this post, but larger lots of numbers come at bulk discounts.
7: Register your copyright. In the US this can be done through through the eco.copyright.gov web site and at the time of this post it costs $35.
8: Optionally get a Library of Congress Card Catalog Number through the pcn.loc.gov web site. You have to be a publisher to apply for this number (See step 5 above).
9: Get some pre-press software. This isn’t a word processor, it is page layout software for pre-press production prior to printing. I personally use and recommend the Adobe InDesign CS5 product for this purpose. You can find more information about it at the www.adobe.com web site. This stuff isn’t cheap by the way, and if you are cheap about getting your hands on good pre-press software then your final work will reflect this.
10: Get an account with a reputable Print on Demand (POD) printing service. This kind of company will handle order fulfillment through a major distribution chain. I chose to use Lightning Source International (LSI) www.lightningsource.com since they are owned by Ingram Content Group one of the largest book distributors in the world. For title set up fees, printing costs, shipping costs, and catalog fees they will list your work for sale on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and make it available to book stores through their distribution chain. Lightning Source only works with publishers who can create ready to print files to their specifications (see step 5, step 6, and step 9).
11: Market your book (also known as the hard part). If you are a small press publisher, then know that you are a kitten among wolves. The only way to survive is to run faster, dodge quicker, and build a relationship with your audience.